WSSC and local fire departments combat water theft

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LAUREL, MD – The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) and the fire departments from Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties are asking people for their help catching those who steal water from its fire hydrants.

“It is a problem,” said Harvey Baker, Chief of the WSSC Police Department. “It’s an issue that goes unreported because a lot of people don’t know. That’s why we have our water theft prevention program that we’re kicking off.”

The WSSC estimates that 145-million gallons of water was stolen from its fire hydrants, that are painted green and grey, in 2015. The utility has over 42,000 hydrants across Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.

“They may have a landscaping business and they want to get the water for free. They may work on a construction site and they want to wash grates. So they come by, it only takes 3-5 minutes to hook up a hose and steal the water,” added Baker.

Hydrants can be leased and ones that are being used legally are equipped with a fire hydrant meter. The concern is that when people steal water from a fire hydrant they could be damaging the hydrant which could have ramifications for firefighters using it during an emergency.

“They’re putting lives at risk. Firefighters as well as citizens. We need the fire flow, we need to be able to establish water quickly to minimize fire loss as well as protect lives,” said Prince George’s County Fire Department Deputy Chief James McClelland.

The WSSC is asking people if they suspect a fire hydrant is being used illegally, to report it to the WSSC Police at 301-206-8888.